Richard Nejezchleb is ready to return to action after his first Canadian Christmas.
While the rest of the Brandon Wheat Kings went home for the Western Hockey League’s holiday break, the 18-year-old forward from Prague, Czech Republic opted to stay in Brandon to rest up for the second half of the season.
"Back in the Czech, it’s like minus seven (hours) so it’s a big time change so I would have to adjust there and come back here and adjust back so I decided to stay," said Nejezchleb, whose Wheat Kings open their post-Christmas schedule tonight by hosting the Moose Jaw Warriors. "It’s better for hockey to stay here."
Nejezchleb used Skype to keep in touch with his family, friends and girlfriend over the holidays, while his billets, Jim and Terry Sinnett did their best to make him feel at home for his first Canadian Christmas. Still, Nejezchleb was thrilled to see his teammates begin to filter back into Brandon on Boxing Day.
"(The Sinnetts) tried to make a good Christmas for me because I was without my family," Nejezchleb said. "It’s nice to see the guys after the break. I really missed them."
In his first WHL season, Nejezchleb began to hit his stride late in the first half, racking up four goals and two assists in one three game span, although he was shut out in the final two games before the break. He finished the first half with seven goals and six assists in 20 games, and believes the rest he got over the Wheat Kings’ 11-day break will help keep him strong for the stretch run.
"I feel better after break because I was a little tired in the end," he said. "So (after getting) just a little bit of rest, I worked out and I feel really good."
After winning three of their last five games to finish the first half at 13-19-2-2, the Wheat Kings will try to regain their momentum quickly despite being back together for only two days.
Brandon head coach Dwayne Gylywoychuk believes the key to coming together quickly after the break is to stick with a no-frills game.
"If we try to do too much, we’ll get ourself into spots we don’t want to get (in)," he said. "We’re trying to stress to keep the game simple … and make sure we’re working hard and we’re competing and give ourselves a chance that way. I think if we do that we’ll be fine and I think we’ve learned that in the first half of the season."
ONE-TIMERS: LW Mike Ferland, who hopes to be reassigned to Brandon after playing the first half of the season in the Calgary Flames’ system, practised for the second straight day on a line with Nejezchleb and C Tim McGauley … LW Kord Pankewicz (flu) sat out Thursday’s practice at Westman Place … C Tyrel Seaman (suspected concussion) remains out, while D Rene Hunter did not return to the team after the break after going on a personal leave during the first half … The Wheat Kings have three players — LW Alessio Bertaggia (Swiss junior team), C Jayce Hawryluk and C/LW John Quenneville (both at the World Under-17 Challenge) away at international tournaments, while the Warriors are missing four: D Morgan Rielly (Canadian junior team) and the U-17 trio C Brayden Point, RW Miles Warkentine and RW Josh Uhrich … The Warriors started their post-Christmas schedule Thursday by visiting the Regina Pats … Former Wheat Kings G Liam Liston is leaving the Vancouver Giants to pursue his law degree at the University of Alberta.